When the Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle and Lang Lang came together for their first joint recording in April 2013, expectations were high. Not only because the musicians are among the best in their field, but also because they had chosen a challenging as well as exciting repertoire: Béla Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Sergei Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto. In our documentary The Highest Level, you can be witness to this summit meeting and with extensive behind-the-scenes footage, follow the making of a great recording.
The film is many things at once. Firstly, it is a portrait of the artists, in which one comes close to the orchestra, conductor and soloist. We learn a lot about their fundamental view of music, and how they find their way to a joint interpretation. About Prokofiev’s concerto, Simon Rattle says, “It goes without saying that it’s extraordinarily difficult and virtuosic to play, and it’s an amazingly splashy display piece, but with many moments of delicacy and beauty.” This is precisely one of the major challenges of this recording project: how to reconcile the explosive with the lyrical in these works.
From the piano, Lang Lang readily explains how he overcomes the physical pitfalls of the works. Furthermore, the viewer can follow the many steps of a recording. We see how Simon Rattle and Lang Lang hone their interpretation, both in the recording studio and on the podium. And we learn from the sound engineer how to get the best possible, authentic sound recording. The film makes it clear that the creation of great art is based not least on a perfect balance of inspiration and hard work.